Private airlines are choosing not to use aerobridges for boarding and deboarding an aircraft to save money and therefore, aged people are bearing the brunt as they have to use stairs, a Parliamentary committee stated on Monday, March 14.
“The Committee deplores this apathetic and unreasonable attitude of the private airlines,” its report said, adding that such carriers should be penalised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Aerobridge is a moveable tunnel that is extended from the airport building to the aircraft for boarding or deboarding passengers. Airlines have to pay a certain charge to the airport for using aerobridge facilities.
A report of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture were tabled in Rajya Sabha on Monday, March 14 wherein it said that despite having aerobridges in some of the airports, the airlines are not using them for boarding and deboarding the passengers and are instead using staircases.
“Despite charging passengers, aerobridge facilities are not being used by private airlines to reduce operational cost,” it mentioned. Due to this, passengers especially the aged ones have to bear the brunt and climb the stairs of the parking stand to board an aircraft, it noted.
“The committee deplores this apathetic and unreasonable attitude of the private airlines and strongly recommends that its circular on the aforesaid subject may be strictly enforced,” it mentioned.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation had in 2018 issued a circular to all Indian airport operators stating that if an aerobridge is available for boarding and deboarding passengers, it must be used for their convenience.
The Committee recommended that the ministry should conduct regular surprise checks to ensure compliance with their circular and “in case there is a default, the concerned private airlines should be penalised”.
Stating that different airlines were charging varied fares for the same distance and duration, the panel asked the Union government to ensure that the passengers are “not fleeced in the garb of commercialisation”.
It also described the airlines’ decision to charge extra money for selecting seats as “arbitrary and unjustifiable”.
The committee agreed that the civil aviation sector grows in an open market and private players should be given a free hand. However, it said that the Aircraft Rules, 1937, specifically mentions that the fares should be reasonable and should maintain reasonable profit.
“In the above context, the committee feels that the reply of the ministry stating that air travel is purely a contractual matter between the airline and the passenger, is not at all justified,” it said. “The committee believes that a balance also must be maintained between commercial interests of the airlines and the interests of the passengers.”